Signature drive on vs black sand mining in Cagayan

Raymund Catindig, Charlie Lagasca - The Philippine Star

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – A Church-backed signature campaign has been launched in Cagayan province to drum up support against the continued extraction of black sand along its coastlines.

Franciscan sister Minerva Campued, deputy chairperson of the Church-based Federation of Environmental Advocates of Cagayan, said they are expecting at least 100,000 signatures to support their anti-black sand mining drive.

She said their volunteers have gathered some 20,000 signatures from all over Cagayan since the signature campaign was launched two weeks ago.

The campaign, according to Campued, also supports the letter of appeal of Tuguegarao Archbishop Sergio Utleg to President Aquino for the revocation of all black sand mining permits issued by local government units (LGUs) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

In a recent letter, Utleg called on the President to revoke all permits allowing the extraction of black sand, which he said only endangers the lives of fisherfolk and the environment, especially in the province’s northern coastlines.

These activities, rampant in the coastlines of Aparri, Buguey, Sta. Teresita, Gonzaga, Lallo, and Camalaniugan towns, Utleg said, thrive due to the collusion of foreign firms, politicians and other people in the government “who do not have the interest of the people at heart.” 

Utleg also assailed last Tuesday’s pro-black sand mining rally in Aparri, which he alleged was the handiwork of groups and individuals who continue to rake in huge amounts of money at the expense of the environment.

The Church said these vested groups and individuals are only exploiting the ordinary folk of their economic needs to make the impression that they are supportive of mining activities in their localities.

“They have no concern,” Utleg told The STAR, referring to LGUs and other people in government who continue allowing the extraction of black sand in the province’s coastlines.

Black sand or magnetite, which is a rich resource along the coastlines of Cagayan, is an important component in the manufacturing of concrete and steel products, magnets, paint, ink, paper, jewelry and cosmetics, making it a lucrative commodity in foreign markets such as in China and Taiwan.

Black sand mining operations here, mostly being financed or operated by Chinese and Taiwanese firms, are sanctioned by LGUs for small-scale activities or the MGB for large-scale projects.

The Church said these firms have been operating under the guise of dredging supposedly to clear the coastlines and the Cagayan River of heavy silt.

Earlier, the MGB regional office had admitted that it had granted mineral processing permits to at least 10 firms, including Chinese-owned ones, to extract black sand until 2017 along the province’s northern coastlines.

MGB regional director Mario Ancheta, however, said they are ready to suspend or even revoke these permits if their holders are found violating any provisions of their contracts in accordance with the 1995 Mining Act.

In fact, Ancheta said they have an ongoing crackdown along with the National Bureau of Investigation not only on illegal mining or quarry operators but also on those with permits but operating within the no-mining zone in Cagayan.

He said firms extracting black sand or magnetite along the province’s northern coastlines are legitimate ones with existing permits from his office and other concerned authorities like the LGUs. 

“But we can always suspend or revoke their permits if they are found not complying with our mining regulations,” he said.











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